The chart and commentary that follow are intended to provide the newcomer to the piano market with a simple summary of how the brands compare with one another in overall quality and recommendability, taking into account each brand's features, performance, and track record.

Any such rating system is obviously not scientific but subjective, the product of my contacts with dozens of piano technicians, dealers, and other industry personnel, as well as my more than thirty years of involvement with the piano industry. My sense is that most knowledgeable people in the industry would agree in broad terms with this comparison, though many will disagree with me—and with each other—about the details.

The key to proper use of this chart is not to cling to it too tightly but to understand that, given its subjectivity and simplicity, it should be used only as a learning tool. In addition, use common sense when comparing one brand with another. Compare verticals with verticals and grands with grands, and compare only similar sizes, or models whose selling prices fall within the same range. Note that, for the sake of simplicity, there may be quality differences within a single product line that are not shown here; also, a few brands were omitted due solely to lack of sufficient information about them.

A generalization useful to understanding the piano market is that pianos can be divided into two types: perfor-mance and consumer. Performance-grade pianos are built to a single high standard, and the price charged is whatever it takes to build such a piano and bring it to market. Most performance-grade pianos are made in Europe or the United States. Consumer-grade pianos are built to be sold at a particular price, and adjustments to (i.e., compromises in) materials, workmanship, and method and location of manufac-ture are made to meet that price. Most of these instruments are made in Asia. Both grades of piano are necessary to meet the needs of the wide variety of consumers. The chart for each grade is divided into three levels of quality; for consumer-grade pianos, each of these levels is further broken down into two or more subgroups. Within each group or subgroup, the brands are listed in alphabetical order. No judgment of these brands' relative quality should be inferred from this order.

Within each grade of piano, the distinctions between one group or subgroup and the next can be quite subtle, so don't get hung up on small differences. Furthermore, the prep- aration of the piano by the dealer can be far more important to the quality of the product you receive than some of the distinctions listed in the chart.

Prices shown for each group are the approximate lowest and highest typical selling prices of new pianos in the least expensive style and finish.

Highest Quality
Grands 5' to 7':
High Quality
Grands 5' to 7':
Better Quality
Grands 5' to 7':
Highest PrestigeBlüthner
C. Bechstein
Steinway (Hamburg)
Steinway (New York)
High PrestigeGrotrian
Bechstein (Academy)
August Förster
Mason & Hamlin
Medium PrestigeEstonia
Shigeru Kawai
Schimmel (Konzert)
Yamaha (CF)*
Schimmel (Classic)
Schulze Pollmann
Charles R. Walter
Less PrestigeBohemia
W. Hoffmann (Tradition)
Wilh. Steinberg (IQ)

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